Hand washing sweaters and other knits may be super easy, but that doesn’t mean you know how to do it! Here, we dispel the mysteries with step-by-steps, tips, do’s and do not’s.

Your first question may be, why hand wash? The simple answer is to avoid felting. In the presence of water, many knits will felt if they are agitated, tumbled, tousled, rubbed, or otherwise treated roughly. Hand washing avoids this pitfall and also gives you more control to avoid other common washing-machine mishaps: shrinkage, misshaping, snags, and what-not. Note that lots of modern machines have gentle cycles designed to mimic the care of actual hand washing. If you want to go that route, we recommend testing the cycle with your gauge swatch before you go ahead with the actual finished piece.

In the end, we tend to stick with hand washing. It seems to us the safest way to treat the things we care about. Plus, we welcome any opportunity to commune with fiber!

Rather read? Here’s the same information that’s in our video written out…

Materials

  • A rinse-free wool wash. We use Purl Soho’s Sweater Soap, a very gentle, kind-to-your-fibers soap. Made of plant-based saponified oils, it is available in two scents: Unscented or Ylang Ylang + Cedarwood.
  • A basin or sink (large enough to hold the piece you are washing)
  • A tablespoon (or your best guess-t-imation)
  • 2 clean towels (if you are washing a large piece you may need more)

Wash

  1. Fill a basin or sink with enough tepid water to completely submerge your sweater.
  2. Add soap and swirl until the soap is completely dissolved. For our Sweater Soap we recommend using approximately 1 tablespoon of soap for every gallon of water. This ratio does not need to be exact, just be sure that the water does not feel too soapy.
  3. Place the sweater in the basin, pushing it down into the water until it is fully submerged.
  4. Let the sweater sit for at least 15 minutes in order to completely absorb the water. For chunky or particularly dirty pieces, allow them to soak for longer.
  5. Drain the basin or sink. If your piece still seems dirty or if you didn’t use rinse-free soap, refill the basin with tepid water, this time without soap. Be sure not to pour the water directly onto your knit (even that amount of agitation can cause felting!). Soak the piece again. You can repeat this step as many times as necessary.
  6. Carefully fold the sweater into a bundle and gently squeeze out excess water. Be careful not to twist, wring, stretch, pinch, or pull the sweater in order to avoid felting and misshaping.

Dry

  1. Lay a clean dry towel out on a flat surface.
  2. Being careful to keep the sweater in its bundle as you transport it, lay the sweater flat on top of the towel.
  3. Roll the sweater in the towel.
  4. Add weight to the roll so the towel can absorb the excess water in the sweater. You can apply firm pressure here (walking or kneeling on the roll works!), but still be careful not to twist or wring the rolled up towel and sweater.
  5. Unroll the towel and sweater.
  6. Lay out another clean, dry towel, making sure there are no bumps or creases in the towel.
  7. Gently transfer the sweater to the dry towel and lay it out flat. Carefully shape the sweater so it looks tidy and is the size and shape you want it to be.
  8. Let the sweater air dry completely. Depending on the thickness of your knit and the weather, this can take quite a long time. Try to leave it alone so your knit can maintain its shape while it dries.
  9. You did it! Your hand knit is now clean and fresh and may even feel like it’s got a bit of a new life. Best of all, you never have to be afraid of hand washing again!